It was a typical day in the life of the mainstream U.S. news media. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went on American TV and threatened war on Iran for its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon, while being spared any inconvenient questions about Israel’s very real – and rogue – nuclear arsenal.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, host Bob Schieffer devoted more than six minutes of a ten-minute interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the topic of Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon, with Netanyahu explicitly threatening to attack Iran if it crossed his personally drawn “red line” on the level of permitted refinement of nuclear fuel.
Nowhere during that interview – or in the major news articles that I read about it – was there any reference to Israel’s own rogue nuclear arsenal or how destabilizing it is for one religious state possessing nukes to threaten to attack another religious state lacking a single nuke.
The imbalance in this nuclear equation is so breathtaking that you might have thought it would be at the center of a testy Q-and-A. Instead it was nowhere.
Netanyahu also was allowed to denounce Iran as “apocalyptic” without any question about Netanyahu’s own frequent references to Israel facing “existential” threats.
Indeed, Israel’s attitude toward using nuclear weapons is sometimes called the “Samson Option,” recalling the Biblical hero who destroyed himself along with his enemies.
So, again, you might have thought Schieffer would pounce on Netanyahu’s self-serving remark. But, nah!
In other words, it was a typical day in the life of mainstream U.S. journalism, a profession which purports to be “objective” – meaning it should treat all parties to a dispute equally – but, of course, isn’t.
An “objective” interview or article would have included at least some reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and the question of whether Israel has the unilateral right to wage war (or even threaten war) against another country, with the particular irony that Israel is accusing Iran of pursuing a course that Israel has already taken.
But it is expected now that “objective” U.S. journalists will avert their eyes from a reality that Israel would prefer not to mention. In the real world of U.S. journalism, “objectivity” means following the bias of the powers-that-be and framing issues within the conventional wisdom.
In the CBS interview, Netanyahu also was allowed to take a free shot at Iran and its president-elect, Hassan Rowhani, who was disparaged by Netanyahu as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” whose strategy is to “smile and build a bomb.”
Netanyahu was given free rein, too, to demand that President Barack Obama demonstrate “by action” that he stands with Israel in its military threat against Iran.
Those demands “should be backed up with ratcheted sanctions,” Netanyahu said. “They have to know you’ll be prepared to take military action; that’s the only thing that will get their attention.”
(It might be noted here that the United States has lots and lots of nuclear weapons and indeed is the only nation to have actually used them in warfare against other human beings. Meanwhile, Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.)
Netanyahu seemed perturbed that the Obama administration is hoping to reach an accommodation with President-elect Rowhani that would involve Iran accepting new safeguards on its nuclear program in exchange for relaxed economic sanctions.
The New York Times reported that “a senior [Obama] administration official” told reporters on Friday that Rowhani’s more moderate tone suggested he was “going in a different direction” from his predecessors and might be interested in reaching a broad settlement with the West.
In the CBS interview, Netanyahu was signaling that any accommodation with Iran – beyond one that would demand Iran’s total capitulation on its right to process uranium at all – is unacceptable to him.
The U.S. press corps then repeated Netanyahu’s hard-line remarks without any of that troublesome context regarding Israel’s possession of an undeclared nuclear arsenal, considered one of the world’s most sophisticated.
That the U.S. press corps routinely fails to provide that sort of context is clear evidence that the principle of “objectivity” is one that is selectively applied, which would seem to negate the very notion of “objectivity.”
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.